The business of show business

In “As You Like It,” William Shakespeare famously wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” With respect to The Bard, I’d like to expand the metaphor. We men and women may also be directors or stage managers or ushers, scenic or lighting or sound designers, costumers or wardrobe supervisors or makeup artists, marketing directors or publicists or accountants or house managers or front-of-house staff! 

In other words, a life in the theatre — a career in the theatre — can take many viable paths.

Say, for example, you are a gifted home sewer who would like to see her or his designs onstage. Each and every show needs costumes, from elementary school pageants to college productions, community theatres or for-profit houses. Or perhaps you’re a skilled carpenter or electrician. These talents are also in very high demand in the theatre, as sets and lighting can really make or break a show. In fact, the first audience “Ahhhh!” should come when the curtain rises and the set and lighting are revealed. The Stagecraft and Introduction to Theatre classes at FM might be just the thing to help you translate your love of sewing, carpentry, or electrical work onto the stage.

Do you like to write and/or design? Many theatres need writers and designers to put out press releases, write articles for local and school papers, and design programs for individual shows. Theatres both big and small need websites developed and maintained. FM offers media writing and graphic design classes to help get you started.

With time, patience, and persistence, what might even begin as a volunteer situation could well develop into a freelance business or even a full-time career as you polish your skills and develop meaningful professional relationships. FM can even help with this; we offer classes in Entrepreneurship and Marketing.

From a young age, I bet many of us daydreamed about becoming famous actors. We saw our names in lights. We practiced our Oscar or Emmy or Tony acceptance speeches. Perhaps, as time went on and the reality of the show business world dawned, we amended that dream somewhat. We negotiated, we bargained with ourselves. Instead of being famous actors, we’d be perfectly happy being working actors, please and thank you! And even though that goal proved slippery and elusive, nevertheless we persisted.

And that’s great!

But for others among us, the thought of any life in the theatre — any career in the theatre– is enough to make our professional spirits soar. The experience of the theatre goes well beyond the individual performer. It is truly a collaborative art. If it weren’t for a fully trained and educated staff, no theatre (or arts organization of any kind) could run successfully.

If you like being part of an arts team, no matter your age, no matter your background, you can break in by developing or adapting skills and interests you already have. The show must go on, but not without you. FM can help. Come talk to us about it.

Jason Radalin is assistant professor of theatre arts.


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